Reflections on Camping

Two days of silence later and I do in fact have a few things to report.

Camping was a good mix of fun, relaxing, and stimulating, with a healthy dose of isolation and boredom. It was four days of reading and handwritten notes, daily kayaking and canoeing and swimming and floating in the middle of a huge lake, picturesque in its dark, flat water and surrounding mass of green. 

One thing that AM mentioned that really, really resonated with me: after a thoughtful comment on yet another tidbit of my chaotic relationship with my mother, he suggested that perhaps I live my life not by defining, but by defying. And that stuck. What do I do that is defining myself out of the multitude of things I could be? Do I not spend all my energy noticing what others want me to be and rejecting those expectations? Everything I do for the name of feminism. My personality and interests in rejection of my mother: I like the outdoors and being dirty, being uncomfortable, being boyish, being careless and loud, being quiet and reticent and aloof.

The thing is – I’m not sure if I’m in a spot right now such that I want to change that about myself. Ideally, yes – I should define myself and let myself be free. But I don’t know if I’m capable of that yet. And I think I can look at it as an evolution: a year ago, I had no sense of my person. Though the process may be flawed, I am more of who I think I am today. Perhaps in the future. Not now.

As for the silence: it was not quite the enlightenment that I thought it would be. And yet, it was immensely needed. If anything, it put the entire two days in the mood of the spaces of time in a day in which you are alone – perhaps walking some distance to a destination between appointments, or eating a solitary meal outside. Quiet, reflective, and wandering, which no errant conversation to distract thoughts.

A few gems: the sounds of the forest around. Laying on an empty platform and gazing up at the trees of the forest rustle like dominos with each great gust of wind. The lapping of water against the canoe amid the quiet in the center of the lake. Laying in captivated silence at the smoke of our mosquito burners, curling and unfurling into a shaft of sunlight as if they were tangible bits of thread. Eating fresh hamburgers by the fire in fast camaraderie with fellow campers, the lighting so dark that you didn’t know how good the bite would be until it reached your mouth in all its juicy glory. Trudging in the rain to the bathrooms to brush our teeth. AM’s caveman face, staring glassy eyed into the rain as I came out of the bathroom, and bursting into laughter. The strange couple that was terrified of us because of our silence. The Cuban woman whose voice was so very kind that it was extremely off-putting. The sound of the water during the breaststroke: in the push of the legs and the circling of the hands. Singing, belting, alone in the middle of the lake, floating aimlessly in the bright orange kayak. Diving, cannonballing, pencilling off the dock. Meditating on a rock in the middle of the lake. Cuddling with AM. Missing sex with JKm. Eating bell peppers under the light of a hanging flashlight under the downpour. Inside the tent, the light and wind refracting into a vision of flames along the inside. Rilke and writing his notes. Questioning kindness. Over-easy eggs each morning. Laying on the benches in the rain, in silence.

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